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The main Russian drink: Who invented kvass?
The main Russian drink: Who invented kvass?

You can't even "" imagine how many varieties of kvass you have invented. Sweet, sour, mint, with raisins, apple, pear, honey, pepper, horseradish, thick kvass, soldier's kvass … True, they had at least ten centuries for this.

By the beginning of the 19th century, there were over a thousand recipes. Kvass - a fermented drink made from flour and malt or rye bread - has become, if you like, something like a national bond, and once a part of big politics. But first things first.

Who invented kvass?

It is not known when the main cold Russian drink appeared in Russia. Perhaps it wasn't even the Russians who invented it. Something resembling kvass was prepared in Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt. In the 5th century BC. e. Herodotus talked about a drink called "ziphos": it was made by soaking bread crusts, as a result of fermentation, something similar to kvass was obtained.


Apparently, kvass was prepared everywhere, but due to a combination of several factors - always available raw materials, plus weather conditions - it took root here. The first written mention of it belongs to the chronicle of 996: by order of Prince Vladimir, newly converted Christians were treated to "food, honey and kvass." Over time, in other states, drinks of this kind have evolved into something (for example, into beer), and kvass has remained a Russian "invention". But the "nationalization" of kvass started all the fun.

Who drank kvass and why so much?

Literally everyone drank kvass: peasants, soldiers, doctors, monks, tsars. They knew how to cook it in every family according to the family recipe - hence so many variations of kvass. Borscht is cooked like this: the general rules are the same, but everyone cooks with their own nuances. Moreover, the field for experiments is wide: the difference could consist both in the quantities and types of starting materials, and in the details of the technology itself.

For example, to prepare the mash (bread or flour diluted with water and left for fermentation), they took both cold and hot water - and the result depended on that. Or they changed the residence time of the mash in the oven or in the vats. Finally, the barrels where the kvass was supposed to ferment could be flavored with sugar, hops, mint, raisins, honey, etc.

Sale of kvass

In Russia, kvass was an everyday drink, which is now tea. “Kvass, like bread, will never get bored,” says a Russian proverb. Previously, it was considered a complete food, so they said that they did not drink kvass, they “eat” it. In times of famine, they survived at the expense of him, they took him to the field and to other hard work. Although it was as liquid as it is now, it gave a feeling of fullness. And it also served as the basis for dozens of different dishes: from okroshka (actually a salad filled with kvass) to turkey with green onions (soup made from bread crusts).

Since the XII century, kvass began to be distinguished as variants of kvass: an acidic, low-alcoholic and highly intoxicating drink. The second was called "melted", that is, cooked, and not arbitrarily soured. If the kvass is not boiled, then the natural fermented milk fermentation stops the alcoholic fermentation and then its strength does not exceed 1-2%, but the "melted" kvass could be compared in strength with wine. Therefore, kvass was also loved for its quality to turn into alcohol.

Homemade mint kvass

A separate profession appeared - ferment. Each fermentor specialized in a certain variety and were named by its name (apple ferment, barley ferment, etc.). Each of them worked in their own area, and going beyond its borders to a “foreign” area was fraught with trouble: the kvasniki zealously divided the territory and thus resolved the issue of high competition.

Finally, there is another version of the wild popularity of kvass. “The reason for this is simple: there was a lack of clean drinking water.And the denser the country is inhabited, the more acute this issue became, which caused epidemics and massive gastric diseases in the past. The fermented drink (like, for example, kvass or cider) was practically safe from a sanitary point of view,”says Russian cuisine historian Pavel Syutkin.

Ancient amulet and connection with patriotism

But not only salvation from epidemics was seen in kvass. They were so fond of him that kvass acquired sacred and mystical properties, and became a talisman. The girls poured them on the shelves in the bathhouse during the washing ceremony before the wedding (and the rest had to drink), and the men “extinguished” them the fires caused by lightning, as they believed that only kvass or milk could cope with such “God's wrath”. According to one version, a hoop was thrown into such a fire from a kvass barrel so that the fire of such a fire would not go further. According to another, they extinguished the fire directly with kvass.

Russian kvass seller

At court, kvass was also believed, but in terms of phenomenal health benefits. "Kvass" is related to the Old Russian word "sour" - and lactic acid had a beneficial effect on the body. Kvass was loved by the commander Alexander Suvorov and Tsar Peter I - the latter drank it every day. Demoted to jesters, Prince Mikhail Golitsyn was nicknamed "kvassnik" at all - he was obliged to bring a drink to Empress Anna Ioannovna.

Kvass seller

And absolutely incredible fame came to kvass after the war with Napoleon in 1812. The Russian nobility began to demonstrate their patriotism … yes, through kvass. “As a matter of urgency, the champagne was replaced with kvass - it was poured into crystal glasses and served at balls,” says Pavel Syutkin. Over time, there appeared those who decided to mock over such ostentatious, official Russophilia. This is how the expression “leavened patriotism” was coined.

The author is considered to be Prince Vyazemsky, a literary critic and close friend of Alexander Pushkin, who, in Letters from Paris (1827), launched into the following reasoning: “Many people recognize unconditional praise for everything that is their own for patriotism. Turgot called this lackey patriotism, du patriotisme d'antichambre. We could call it leavened patriotism."

"Vulgar" drink

Barrel with kvass

The position of kvass was shaken in the second half of the 19th century, at the top: kvass and similar sour tastes began to leave aristocratic use and were recorded in the so-called "vulgar" diet. Although, as before, he was appreciated in the small-land, merchant, bourgeois and peasant environment.

This was also reminded by the physician of Catherine II in 1807: “The oldest physician, Dr. Rogerson, the former beloved physician of the great Catherine, finds that sauerkraut, pickled cucumbers and kvass are hygienically extremely useful for our St. Petersburg common people and protect it from various diseases that could develop in it from the influence of climate and immoderate lifestyle in all cases”.


In the middle of the century, industrialization began, and kvass was brewed less often, even in ordinary houses. Wanting to preserve the legacy, the Russian Society for the Protection of Public Health took patronage over the drink and began to open its production at hospitals. Hospital kvass for a whole century by that time was included in the obligatory allowance of the army, navy and prisoners. Where the regiment was, there was supposed to be an infirmary, and where the infirmary was, there was also a glacier with kvass. If there was not enough kvass, the senior management was reported about it, with the demand to immediately allocate money for the purchase of malt.

But the last "stronghold" of kvass collapsed when in 1905 it was replaced with tea in regimental hospitals and hospitals. This is due to the fact that kvass is much more difficult to prepare and store on hikes. Since then, kvass has ceased to be an integral drink of the Russian people and has become simply a favorite. In Soviet times, they began to pour it on tap, not from wooden, but metal yellow barrels, which stood around the city with the onset of heat and until autumn.


In post-Soviet Russia, bottle sale of kvass has begun; now you can buy it in every store. Traditional yellow barrels, by the way, still exist today.The kvass in them is standardized and can no longer boast of a variety of flavors, but such "ordinary" kvass also has its fans.

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